Remember tomorrow? That's what we're all trying to do now, as we recall those distant times
when Iron Maiden were only just beginning their incredible journey. And guess what? The
Friday Rock Show was there every significant step of the way. In fact, my career is so strangely
tied in with Maiden's fortunes.
October 1978 – The birth of an institution. The start of 'The Friday Rock Show',
presented by Tommy Vance and produced by yours truly. Little did we realise how much
we would transform the habits of the nation's youth. No longer would they hit the pubs and
clubs on a Friday night; instead they huddled round their radios eagerly soaking up the latest
and greatest sounds from the world of rock and metal. Those who couldn't hear it live went
to any length to get the show recorded by parents and friends so that they could hear it
Each week, our mailbags bulged with letters from all over the country, sent by listeners
who gratefully informed us that we had transformed their lives. What a trip and what a responsibility.
The fact is that we weren't the only rock radio show in Britain (there were other on local radio stations),
but a rock community was forming around the show, we were becoming an institution, later
immortalised most famously by Saxon in their song 'Denim & Leather'.
We were, of course, fortunate, that our show started just as punk blew itself out, and bands
such as Judas Priest, AC/DC, Motorhead and UFO were making major commercial inroads.
But more importantly for us, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was starting to happen.
Up and down the country, young hopefuls were donning denim and leather, adapting the energy
and agression of punk and flooding it with metal attitude. Once more, the UK was taking the lead
on the contemporary music scene – and 'The Friday Rock Show', just like TotalRock today,
was right at the cutting edge.
And it was because of the NWOBHM that October 1979 saw the start of the FRS sessions,
recorded in Studio 6, the latest Neve 16 track studio at the BBC's Maida Vale studios. The first band
we locked down on tape were Def Leppard, followed quickly by Samson (with a young singer called
Bruce Bruce – he'll crop up again here) and Praying Mantis; it was the cream of the NWOBHM
crop. But the real jewel was the fourth band to come in: Iron Maiden.
They had become the heart and soul of the movement, adored by fans and media alike,
and to get them in for a session so early was something of a coup for us. And listening back
to the tracks from this distance, they still have a sense of purpose and adventure that underlined
why everyone believed Maiden were on their way to massive success. It also helped having
a top engineer like Dave 'ZZ' Dade on board; who as it turned out, was to become the
permanent FRS session engineer and was involved in all the recordings I did with the band.
The next time I met Maiden professionally was at the Reading Festival in 1980. It was the year
when NWOBHM really broke through to the masses, and the festival reflected this in the bill.
At this time, there was little doubt that, when it came to rock and metal, Reading was the sole
British summer festival that offered fans the opportunity to really check out what was happening.
In 1980, the two hottest British bands of the moment – Def Leppard and Maiden –
appeared. The latter were booked onto the second day of the festival – Saturday, August 23
– appearing second to headliners UFO. Ironically, Samson also played on that day,
with that man Bruce Bruce leading from the front.
Maiden received a rapturous reception that day, reflecting their growing prominence,
and their performance was excellent, full of the vitality of youth, yet also having that extra
frisson that comes from knowing you're on a winning streak. And the BBC recording of that day
certainly captured the moment.
Two years later (August 28, 1982, to be precise), Maiden were back at Reading,
with two significant changes: they were headlining the event this time, while both
guitarist Dennis Stratton and vocalist Paul Di'Anno had gone. In their stead were
Adrian Smith and one Bruce Dickinson, who had made his name as...yep, Bruce Bruce.
With the 'Number Of The Beast' album having taken Maiden to a new level, this was a band
who weren't threatening to make the big time – they'd already arrived. As Bruce says
during the band's set they'd just spent three-and-a-half months touring America, which not only
saw them accused of corrupting that nation's youth with their satanic philosophy (!), but more
importantly becoming tighter than ever. As I recall, there were some sound problems on stage
that day, which makes the quality of this recording all the more satisfying. Not only can you hear
how well the band played, but also the overwhelming enthusiasm of the crowd. Topping a bill that
also featured names like the Tygers Of Pan Tang, Gary Moore and Blackfoot, Maiden were hotter
Six years later, the band reached arguably their crowning moment: Donington, August 20, 1988.
Now established as the summer festival for rock and metal, Donington was in its ninth year.
Following the headlining footsteps of such giants as Rainbow, AC/DC, Status Quo, Whitesnake,
ZZ Top, Ozzy and Bon Jovi, Maiden simply outdid them all. They pulled in the biggest crowd
in the festival's history – estimates put the attendance at over 100,000 – and
assembled perhaps the most impressive bill ever, being backed up by Kiss, David Lee Roth,
Megadeth, Guns N'Roses, Anthrax and Helloween.
Reflecting the importance of the occasion, the BBC assembled the biggest production team
we'd ever had at Donington – it was a massive operation that took a lot of coordination,
and we used our state-of-the-art SSL equipped mobile studio to capture what was going on.
And what was going on still sounds spectacular and huge even now. This was a landmark event
in the history of Maiden and British metal – and I'm delighted that I was there to capture
the atmosphere as well as the songs.
Over the nine years and four events, 'The Friday Rock Show' can justly claim to have been
there at the key points in Iron Maiden's career. And I am proud that the quality of the recordings
was so good that certain tracks were even chosen to be released as bonus tracks on singles.
This is the first time that all of these recordings have been brought together and it includes
some tracks that were not on the original broadcasts. Hopefully, it'll not only bring back memories
of Maiden, but also fond reminiscences of 'The Friday Rock Show'.